Egypt TV shows trial live to assuage anger of protests

Egyptian television showed live images on Monday of the trial of one of Hosni Mubarak's ministers, the first such broadcast aimed at placating protesters who have demanded greater transparency in holding the ex-president's allies to account.

Protests that unseated Mubarak in February were driven by widespread anger at high-level corruption. The trials of his former associates are regarded as a credibility test for the military council that took power after his downfall.

Protesters, who have been camped out in Tahrir Square since July 8 demanding deeper reform, accuse the army of moving too slowly and demanded that court sessions be held in public view.

The television showed former Information Minister Anas al-Fiqqi in a white shirt. He appeared briefly before the judge and then returned to a cage in the court where defendants stand.

Fiqqi was detained in February on suspicion of profiteering and wasting public funds. In response to the judge's questioning on the charges, Fiqqi said, "It's not true, sir."

A judge ordered on July 12 that cameras be allowed into sessions. Some recorded images were shown of a trial of another minister on Saturday, but this was the first live broadcast.

The prosecutor charged Fiqqi with depriving the Radio and Television Union, which he ran as minister, of about US$1.9 million in profits by exempting private television stations from fees for live broadcasts of the 2009-2010 football season and the start of the 2010-2011 season.

It said Fiqqi had done this to further his "personal interests as part of an attempt to impose his control and media policies on these stations".

Earlier this month, he was acquitted in separate corruption charges that he had demanded LE36 million from the finance minister for media expenses for parliamentary elections and for media campaigns to promote Mubarak's achievement.

Mubarak himself is due to stand trial on August 3, but his lawyer said on Sunday he was in a coma in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, drawing a denial from a hospital official quoted by the state news agency MENA.

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